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Muslim Poets in the Court of Medieval Arakan


By Aman Ullah

One of the prominent features of socio-cultural history of Arakan in the 17th century was the extensive Muslim influence on the Arakan society, which was not an outcome of some sudden occurrences. It was a result of an age-long intercourse between Arakan and Muslim countries that dated back to the period of Arab contacts with Arakan during the reign of Maha-Taing Tsandaya (788-810 AD).

Various historians and scholars have recorded that Islam began to spread from the eastern bank of Meghna to Arakan since eighth and ninth centuries, long before the establishment of a Muslim kingdom in the frontier region. Since then, the influence grew fast and was consolidated fully by the 17th century.

From the writings of Verthema, Caesar Frederick, Ralph Fitch and also Portuguese it appears that in the sea ports of Bengal coast there was important community of Muslim merchants and residents who were mostly Arabs. A fairly large numbers of Muslims had entered Chittagong and had gone to Arakan considerably before Chittagong came under the independent Sultanate of Bengal in 1338. The tempo of Muslims immigrations to Chittagong and Arakan increased after the Pathan occupations of Chittagong in the middle of 14th century.

A close cultural contact between Arakan and Bengal was first made in early in the 15th century when Naremekhla (Sulaiman Shah), the king of Arakan, dispossessed by the king of Burma, came to Bengal and took refuge in the court of Gour (1404). After a sojourn of 24 years he was helped by Jalal Uddin Mohammed Shah, the Bengal Sultan, to regain his throne (1430). During his stay in Bengal the Arakanese king had opportunity to learn and experience many things. Among other things, he has acquainted with Bengali songs, music, language and literature, and introduced them in his own country after he had returned home and to power. Since then the Bengali culture was enduring for many years in the court of Arakan.

The cultivation of Bengali literature attained further development when Arakan power annexed Chittagong. Politically Chittagong was subjugated by Arakan, but culturally it was Arakan, which was greatly influenced by a strong culture and powerful language. A number of competent Bengalis were appointed to high government posts. People of all ranks enjoyed the literary beauty of Bengali works.

One of the foremost factors for the phenomenal growth of Bengali influence, in view of Dr. Enamul Huq of Dhaka University, was the superiority of Bengali Language over the Magh Language. [1] Dr. Sukumar Senrightly says; ‘from this time Bengali was accepted at the Arakan court as the chief cultural language, mainly because many of high officials of Arakan came from Chittagong and other neighboring territories whose mother tongue was Bengali. [2] The glorious Husian Shahi tradition of cultivation of Bengali literature was not only kept alive but also given an encouraging support by the Arakanese rulers and their influential courtiers. Thus, the Arakanese kings of the 17th century were enthusiastic patrons of Bengali language and literature. Some of them adopted also Bengali names of themselves, such as, Thiri Thu Dhamma (Arakanese pronunciation of Shirisudhrma), Sanda Thu Dhamma (Arakanese pronunciation of Chandra Sudharma). The Bengali immigrations or sojourners in Arakan were almost all Muslims, and the official and ministers too were mostly Bengali Muslims. Muslim influence in the Arakan court was therefore potent, and as happened quite often in the 17th century the kings took Muslim names as well. [3]

Thus the Bengali literature was cultivated extensively in Arakan under the patronage of Arakan rulers who encouraged the growth of Islamic culture and civilization while giving substantial support and privileges to the Muslims and Muslim poets in the field of literary pursuits. Most of the Muslim poets of Arakan were holding high civil and military posts. The most notables were Daulat Qazi, Aloal, Qurashi Magan Thakur, Mardan and AbdulKarim Khondkar.


The earliest known Bengali poet in Arakan was Qazi Daulat or Daulat Qazi. His patron Ashraf Khan was a Laskhar Wazir (Defence Minister) and adviser of Shirisudarma (1622-1638). To popularize the romantic tales then current in West Indian poetry (Rajasthani, Gujrati, Hindi, Avadhi and Bhojpuri), Ashraf had asked to Daulat to render the stories of Lor, Chandrani and Mai-na into Bengali narrative verse (Panchali). His book was entitled Satimaina Lor Chandrani. The poet says as follows about how he was influenced to write the book:

“Sriyut Ashraf Khan was a great minister, he was like a full moon…….Sitting in the assembly, and he expressed his willingness to hear tales. There were many stories in Arabic and Persian, Gujarati, Gohari and Teth (Gohari and Teth were local languages used in Gohar area bordering West Bengal). He was willing to hear the story of Lorak and Mai-nar Bharati (Satimaina Lor Chandrani) …… The poet Sadhan told the story in Teth Gohari, but these languages are not understood by many people. So wanted that the book should be composed in Panchali, Qazi Daulat felt the intention of the minister and composed Mainar Bharati in Bengali.” [4]

Satimaina was a ballad composed and sung by local bards in Bhojpur area bordering ancient and medieval Bengal. There were such other ballads, which were very popular and entered into East Bengal including Chittagong, and crossed over to Arakan. Two famous compositions were Mulla Daud’s Chandain and Sadhan’s Mainasat. When these ballads were sung in the court of Lashkar Wazir Ashraf Khan, he took interest in the poem and asked Qazi Daulat to write the book in Bengali. So Qazi Daulat’s work was a translation but it was a free translation and thus the poetic talent of the poet was maintained.

The story in brief was as follows: Lor, the king of Gohari married a beautiful princess name Maina or Mainabati. They were living a happy life, when once a yogi showed Lor a picture of another very beautiful lady Chandrani, the princess of Mohari. Chandrani was also married, but her husband was a short fellow and an impotent person, Lor went to Mohari, and began meeting Chandrani in private, but when their illicit connection was known, Chandrani’s husband fought against Lor but was killed. Lor then married Chandrani. In the meantime, in his own kingdom at Gohari, his first wife Maina was living in anguish and sorrow due to his separation, and another person named Saton tried to win over Maina, but failed. Maina remained faithful to her husband Lor. Later Lor came back with Chandrani to his kingdom and joined Maina, thereafter all lived in happiness.

Daulat Qazi took it from the old Rajasthani poem of Sadhan, manuscripts of which have come to light recently. It is divided into three parts. After completing half of the second party the poet died and poet Alaol wrote the remaining one and half part. Daulat Qazi was not only the best among the Muslim poets but also one of the greatest poets among the ancient Bengali poets. His poetic power was extra-ordinary; his sense of art and beauty were sharp and impressive. His power was unparalleled both in Bengali and ‘Brajabuli’. He was the poet who proved that even without the Love-lore of Radha and Khrishna, Brajabuli could be effectively employed in to Bengali. [5]

Brajabuli is an artificial literary language developed in the 16th century. It was created primarily due to the influence of Vidyapati’s lyrics on the love of Radha and Krishna on the Bengali poets of the medieval period. Brajabuli is basically Maithili but its forms are modified to look like Bengali.


The poet Alaol was the most prominent of all the poets of Roshang, in fact he was one of the greatest Bengali poets of the 17th century, and some scholars say that he was Rabindranath Thakur of the 17th century. From his own testimony, it is known that he was the son of a minister of Majlis Qutb of Fathabad in Bengal. He along with his father was going by boat, on the way they were met by Firingi pirates. The parties fought for some time, the father died a martyr, but the son, i.e. Alaol was made a captive and was taken to Roshang. Probably he was sold to the king of Arakan. First he was appointed a horseman in the army. While he was passing his days like this, he chanced to come across the Muslim ministers and high officials of the kingdom. Alaol was a learned man, he knew various languages, Bengali, Arabic, Persian, Hindi and Sanskrit and he was acquainted with famous literary works of those languages. He was also well-versed in vocal and instrumental music. When the ministers and other high officers came to know of his various qualities, they appointed him to teach their children and in this way he became well known to the learned and court circle. He was invited to attend the assemblies in the houses of ministers including the Prime Ministers. Magan Thakur, a leading Muslim of Roshang, who was minister and later Prime Minister under several kings took interest in him and patronised him in various ways. After Magan’sdeath, other ministers and Prime Ministers also patronised him. In this way, Alaol was in the limelight of Arakan social and literary circle for thirty years as a leading figure in the kingdom of Arakan.

With the patronage received from the ministers, Alaol wrote six books

(1) Padmavati 

(2) Saiful Mulk Badiujjamal 

(3) Haft Paikar (or Sapta Paikar)

(4) Thufa

(5) Sikandarnama, and

(6) Last part of Satimaina Lor Chandrani.

It may be mentioned that all these were poetical Bengali translations of books of the same name in other languages and written by great and renowned poets. But the translation was not literal but free, and Alaol maintained his poetical talents in all these books throughout. At times he became free from the text and his knowledge in various subjects has been very appropriately exposed. Dr. Muhammad Shahidullahwrites in his praise as follows:

“Alaol’s name stands very high among Bengali poets in the medieval period. He was a good scholar in Sanskrit, Bengali, Arabic, Persian and Hindi languages. In fact it may be said in great confidence that there was no poet in those days who was equal to this Muslim poet.”[6]

Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sen also praises him in the following words:

“In the Padmavati, there is mark of profound scholarship of Alaol. The poet examined the nature of ‘magan’ragan’ etc. eight ‘mahaganas’. He discussed in details the quarrels and separation of ten conditions of eight heroines like Khandita, Bashakshajja and Kalhantarita; he discussed the truths about Ayurvedic medical science; he discussed the good and evil of timing of journeys like ‘Lagnacharya’ of astronomical science; he explained ‘Yoginitantra’; he explained the abstruse rites followed in the Hindu marriages like an old Hindu married woman (whose husband is alive); he has supplied a correct list of praises and hymns uttered by Purohits. Besides he inserted Sanskrit and verses at the head of chapters like the Pandits of tools (Sanskrit and vernacular schools).”[7]

Abdul Karim Sahitya Visharad discovered his manuscripts, brought the poet and his books from oblivion into the limelight of history by writing more than fifty articles in various Bengali journals. Before him some of Alaol’s books were published from Battala in Calcutta but these were not scientifically edited and so are not dependable for scholarly discussion. Abdul Karim Sahitya Visharad also edited the famous Padmavatiof Alaol and Alaol was his most favourite poet. So his evaluation of Alaol is worth quoting:

“The great poet Alaol was genius in the Muslim society of Bengal. Apart from Daulat Qazi, the author of Satimaina, no second man like him in scholarship was born in this society. The statement is not an exaggeration. He is shining as the mid-day sun in Medieval Bengali literature. The whole Bengali literature has been illuminated by the light of his genius. On the one hand, he is seated on the golden throne of the great poets among the Muslims; on the other hand, among the contemporary Hindu poets also his position is very high. As he was well versed in Bengali and Sanskrit languages, so he was well-versed in Arabic and Persian languages. As he was a versatile genius in Hindu religion and literature so he was a great scholar in Muslim religion and Persian literature. Such erudition is not found in other Muslim poets. He was born with poetic genius of very high standard.”[8]


The first book written by Alaol was the Padmavati. It was originally written by Malik Muhammad Jaisi in Hindi, he started writing the book in 923 A.H./ 1520 A.D and he completed it in 1540 A.D in the reign of Sher Shah. Jaisi probably died in 1542 A.D. i.e. two years after completing the book. The story centred round Raja Ratna Sen of Chitore, the famous beautiful lady Padmini, the princess of Ceylon and King Alauddin Khalji of Delhi. Raja Ratna Sen was leading a happy life with his queen Nagmati, but one day he heard about the beauty of Padmini. The king went to Ceylon with his retinue in the guise of a Yogi, on the way he underwent inhuman sufferings, but at the end he was able to marry Padmini and lived there happily. Nagmati, on the other hand, was passing her days in grief at Chitore in the absence of the King Ratna SenRatna Sen later came back to his capital and lived with the two queens, Nagmati and PadminiRatna Sen once turned out one of his courtiers Raghav Cehtan from his Court, the later went to Dehli, met Sultan Alauddin Khalji, and related to him the story of the beauty of Padmini. The Sultan attacked Chitore to Padmini, but in the meantime King Ratna Sen had died and the two queens, Nagmati and Padmini gave their life in the pyre of their husband. Alauddin came back without achieving anything. This is in short the story of Padmavati. We have said above that Alaol composed the poemPadmavati by order of Magan Thakur in 1651 A.D.


After completing the composition of Padmavati, Magan Thakur ordered Alaol to write Saiful Mulk BadiujjamalAlaol began writing this book, before completing it Magan Thakur died and so the composition of the book was left incomplete. After about a decade Sayyid Musa, another Prime Minister of Roshang requested Alaol to complete the book and the poet did so. This is a legendary tale in which there is love story of man and fairy. The story is found in the Arabic Nights, Alaol probably got the story from a Persian book.

Saiful Mulk was the son of King Sifuan of Egypt and Badiujjamal was the princess of Shapal, king of the fairy land Iran-Bostan. The prince along with his friend Sayyid, the son of Wazir, went to the fairyland and after great hardship met the lady of his love and ultimately married. His friend Sayyid also married the princess of Sarandeep. Alaol completed composing Saiful Mulk Badiujjamal during 1669 – 70 A.D.


This is the third book written by Alaol. The book was originally written in Persian by the great Persian poet Nizami Ganjabi. There are seven stories, which have found place in this book. King Numan of Ajam had a son named Bahram, according to the advice of the astrologers, the king sent his son to live in Yemen. An artist named Samna built for the prince seven towers in the palace; each tower was of different type and colour. In his absence the king died and the Wazir occupied the throne. The prince however returned and defeating the Wazir got back his throne. Thereafter he conquered seven neighbouring kingdoms and married seven princesses of those kingdoms. He allowed each of the princesses to live in each of the seven towers he had built earlier. When Bahram went to live with the princesses in the tower, he asked each of them to tell a story to please him. In this way seven princesses related seven stories which pleased the king, the seven stories from the subject matter of the book Haft Paikar. The story began on Saturday and ended on Friday, the first story that of Saturday is the longest. The stories are all interesting and pleasing. Needless to say, the stories were all educative and full of moral principles. The chief aim of the stories was to please the people. The book was written in 1660 A.D.


The book was originally written in Persian by Shaikh Yusuf Gada in 795 A.H. / 1392-93 A.D. It is a book on religious principles, and contains also advice and admonition that are helpful to lead a religious life of the Muslims. In those days books were not easily available, printing was not known; learners and teachers had to copy books for them. Shaikh Yusuf Gada had a son named Abul FathShaikh Yusuf wrote this book to serve as a guide to his son. So the book is not properly a Fiqh. It contains religious principles on the basic of Fiqh and general moral principles that help regulating an honest and religious life. Alaol, in the preface, gives the subject matter of the book in the following words:

“(Yusuf Gada) had a son named Abul Fath, the book Thufa was written for him, whoever reads the book will be benefited. There is forty-five Bab (chapters) written on Shariat, Tariqat, Haqiqat, Tauhid, and Iman according to Islamic religion. In Arabic door is called Bab, and without door one cannot enter the house. The book Thufa is the house of Shariat, which has forty-five doors. The book deals with religious and worldly matters like eating, drinking, cohabiting, and washing, auspicious matters on houses, works by which to go to heaven or hell etc. It also deals with Namaz, Roza, Zakat, Faraz (obligaory), Nafal (optional), Wazu (ablution), Tayammum (purification by dust), and all kinds of bath. It also deals with questions to be asked in the grave, acts for removing the Sin, and moral principles. These are not told out of imagination, they are found in the Furqan (Quran) and traditions of the Prophet, in books on Fiqh like Hidaya, Kafiya etc. Yusuf Gada composed the book in Persian verse on the basis of Arabic books.”[9]

The life of Muslim from birth to grave is regulated by Shariah or Islamic law and the sources of Islamic law are the Quran, the Hadis and Sunnah of the Prophet, Irma and Quays. Muslims jurists have explained these sources from time to time for the benefit of the Muslims. Apart from obligatory baths etc. matters like passing urine and going to the privy, purification thereof, greetings among Muslim brethren, going to one’s house and taking proper permission from the owners before entering, all these are guided by Shariah or Islamic law. The subjects have been discussed in forty-five Bab or chapters and these chapters are as follows:

(1) Tawhid (oneness of Allah), (2) Iman (belief in Allah and his Prophet, Angels, divine Book, life in the next world, Taqdir, and day of Judgement), (3) Question-Answer in the grave, (4) Knowledge, (5) Injunctions of Shariat about Wazu, Ghusal, going to the privy and purification thereof, (6) Ibadat, performing namaz, (7) Payment of Zakat, (8) Fasting in the month of Ramazan, Shab-I-Qadr, (9) Musafir or way farers, and how to go, when to go, the auspicious days for travelling. In this chapter Hajj and Ziarat of Madina have also been discussed. (10) Recitation of the Quran and dowa, (11) Qasr, i.e. to offer Qasr prayer, this is applied to Musafir, (12) Marriage, (13) Cohabitation of husband and wife, (14) Eating, (15) Drinking, (16) Wearing dresses, (17) Sleeping, (18) Trading, (19) Darveshi, (20) Good behaviour, (21) Debt, (22) How to sit in majlis or assembly, (23) Scandal mongering, (24) Namaz, (25) Qaza Namaz, (26) Patience, (27) Tauba or repentance, (28) Miserliness, (29) Doing good deeds, (30) Charity, (31) Order, ordering to do good and prohibiting from doing bad things, (32) Good voice, (33) Games, (34) Hunting, (35) What to do when first moon is sighted, (36) Old age, to remain engaged in prayers in old age (after forty years), (37) Morning, (38) Shahid, i.e. martyrdom, (39) Forty type of good works, (40) Acquisition of wealth, (41) Heaven, (42) Hell, (43) Sunnat, (words and deeds of the Prophet), (44) Murder, (45) Various prescriptions. 

The subject matters discussed above give an idea of the book. It is not a literary work. It does not discuss love affairs, nor does the book deal with legendary tales. Such books were rarely written in Bengali in the medieval period, in fact, this is the first book of its type. Alaol wrote this book Tuhfa in 1663-64 A.D.


Sikandarnama was originally written by Nizami Ganjabi in Persian that the book was very popular to the scholarly world. Alaol composed it in Bengali by order of Nabaraj Majlis, the Prime Minister of Sri Chandra Sudharma, Arakanese king. The book was very difficult to comprehend; it is presumed that the great Persian poet Nizami used words of five languages; Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Pahlavi (Old Persian) and Nasrani (Armenian). Alaol himself says:

Sikandar “It is difficult to understand the difficult sentences of Nizami, but if they are explained they give pleasure. Writing book is like swimming in the sea, especially if it requires explaining Persian poems. Nizami uses similes; particularly he uses Arabic, Persian, Nasrani, Hebrew, and Pahlavi etc. five languages.”

Sikandarnama contains the heroic exploits of Sikandar or Alexander. He was the son of King Philip of Macedonia; after the father’s death ascended the throne, his tutor or friend Aristotle was made his minister. Alexander became famous by conquering various countries; he even came to India, and defeated Porus of the Panjab. But his chief opponent was Darius of the Persia, by defeating him Alexander conquered the kingdom.

He is said to be the same as Sikandar Zulqarnain of the Holy Quran. It is a big volume and among Alaol’sbooks Sikandarnama was next to Padmavati in terms of popularity. Alaol completed the writing of this book in 1672 A.D. This was probably the last book written by him. The famous Alexanderia port in Egypt was founded by Sikandar and he is also said to be the inventor of looking glass. He tried to get the water of life but failed and again to be immortal he went to Amaranagar, from there also he came back disappointed. A man gave him a handful of dust and he will be merged with dust after death.


(Concluding part)

It may be remembered that Qazi Daulat started writing this book, but before concluding it he died. Alaolcompleted this book by order of Sulaiman in 1658 A.D. Satimaina is a big book, consisting of three parts. Qazi Daulat wrote first two parts, Alaol added the third part. In his part Alaol wrote “Rattan Kalika O Madan Manjari Prasanga” and “Ananda Barmar Galpa”. In writing about Qazi Daulat’s part we have said that while Lor was passing his days with Chandrani, leaving Maina alone, the later was passing her days in grief due to separation. She bore her grief with extreme patience, and at last patience bore fruit. Lor could realise his mistake, he returned home with Chandrani, and all three began to live a happy life. Alaol in his part of the book showed that God rewards those who have patience, and he completed the book saying that Lor was united with Maina.


Mardan wrote his book in Kanchi a place in Roshang. Abdul Karim Sahitya-Visharad discovered a manuscript of his book of which some pages both at the beginning and end were lost. In the available pages the title of the book is not found, in one place the word Nasira is found and so Abdul Karim Sahityavisharad and Dr. Enamul Huq write that the name of the book was Nasiranama, the book deals with Nasib or luck. So it is also believed that the name of the book was Nasibnama. The poet refers to the king Thiri Thudamma, who reigned from 1622 to 1638 A.D. So the book must have been written in between these two dates. Poet Mardan was therefore a contemporary of Qazi Daulat. In the colophon the poet’s name is Mardan Nuruddin and the name of his Pir was Sayyid Ibrahim.

The poet praises the town of Kanchi saying that in that town there were living the Muslims, the Brahmins and the Kayasthas. Among the Muslims there were Alims or learned men who were busy with the Kitaband Quran, i.e. they were busy in religious pursuits. The Brahmins were also learned Pandits and they were busy with their books or Kavyas. The Kayasthas were also there busy in their respective works. Kanchi was probably the name of a township within the kingdom of Roshang.

The subject matter of the book is fate, whatever is in fate will happen, God does not help the proud people and pride hastens their fall. The story is as follows: Abdul Nabi and Abdul Karim, two friends were engaged in business. They were so friendly that they wanted to make their friendship lasting and for this reason they promised to get their children married. The agreement was that if one had a son and another had a daughter they would get them married and vice versa. Abdul Nabi had a son, while Abdul Karim had a daughter, but unfortunately Abdul Karim lost his wealth and became poor. Abdul Nabi forgot his promise and prepared to get his son married elsewhere. Abdul Karim tried to remain Abdul Nabi about his promise but the later did not pay heed to it, rather returned Abdul Karim insulted. Abdul Karim’s wife consoled her husband saying that destiny is irrefutable. Later it so happened that their promise was fulfilled and Abdul Nabi’s son married Abdul Karim’s daughter. [10]


Quraishi Magan’s forefather came from Arabia to Gaur and from there one member of the family moved towards the east, came to Chittagong and ultimately moved to Arakan. Quraishi Maganwrote a book entitled Chandravati. Dr. Enamul Huq discovered a manuscript of which pages both at the beginning and end were lost. So his antecedents and his identity cannot be ascertained. Abdul Karim Sahityavisharad and Dr. Enamul Huq thought that the poet Quraishi Magan was the same person as Magan Thakur, the Prime Minister of Arakan and the patron of the poet Alaol. [11] But nowadays scholars hold a different opinion. They say that Quraishi Magan was a different person; he had no connection with Magan Thakur, the Prime Minister. [12]

There are some families at Nawazishpur (old Fatehnagar) in Raozan P.S. of Chittagong district who claims that they belong to the family of Quraishi Magan. Late Abdul Huq Chowdhury, a famous local historian of Chittagong, belonged to the same family. He collected information about his family and he is also of opinion that Quraishi Magan was a different person from Magan Thakur, the Prime Minister of Roshang. Quraishi Magan’s manuscript was collected from his family. From the genealogical tree that Abdul Huq Chowdhury could collect from his family, it appears that from Quraishi Magan ten generations have so far passed and by this calculation. Quraishi Magan seems to have been alive in the beginning of the 18th century or in other words, Quraishi Magan flourished about 50/60 years later than Magan Thakur. According to family tradition of Abdul Huq Chowdhury, Quraishi Magan had a brother named Bhikan, on the death of both the brothers, Magan left a son named Shujaul and Bhikan a son named MujahidQuraishi Magan probably wrote his book while he was living in Arakan. Shujaul and Mujahid, due to some reason, killed a Magh officer and to avoid consequences fled to Chittagong. It may be remembered that Chittagong was then a part of the Mughal Empire in the Bengal subah. So by fleeing to Chittagong, they escaped and came out of the reach of the Magh government. Shujaul and Mujahid first stayed for some time at Silimpur in Sitakund P.S. but later moved to Fatehnagar (now renamed Nawazishpur) in the Raozan Police station. Here they acquired lakhiraj or rent-free land. They belonged to a family of poet, may be they were also educated persons, and one of their descendants Tita Ghazi Faqir was probably a Faqir or a man of saintly disposition. This is why probably the Mughal Government granted them rent-free lands. The family still holds the landed property and is widely known as a respectable family.


The poet Abdul Karim Khondkar was born in Arakan, and his forefathers were engaged in state services of Roshang. The poet writes about his genealogy as follows:

“Now hear how this kitab became a puthi (i.e. rendered in to Bengali verse). I will tell you something about it. In the town of Roshang, there is a beautiful and heavenly village named Bandar. In that place many Qazis, Muftis, teachers and students, Faqir and darvesh live. Wealthy Muslims live there and talk to the king in friendly terms. If any poor man comes to a house he does not go disappointed. The people there erected mosques to say prayer and thus left their names to be remembered. Muslim learned people were brought there; some were appointed Khatib, some Imam, and some offer prayer as musulli. Some of the people were minister of the king, they all work for increasing the wealth. There was one man there who received title from the king; the title was Sadi-uk-Nana. He was the chief of the merchants, and he became in-charge of the mint …….. His name was Atibar, he was so named by his parents, but the Magh king gave him the title of ‘Nana’ …….. One day he called me and heard the book DullaMajlis, read to him. He was happy and said that many persons cannot understand Persian, some understand, other hear it from those who can read and understand. So if it is rendered into payer (or in Bengali) people will bless you. At his order I promised to write the book in Bengali…….. The name of my great grandfather was Rasul Mia, the king was kind to bestow him wealth and title. His duty was to collect dues from boats or ships and to send state dues to the king. His son was Machan Ali, he was interpreter of ships. If he came across a good thing, he used presented it to the king. His duty was to present before the king all traders who came to Roshang. His son was a good soul and character Ali Akbar. I am Abdul Karim Khondkar, his son. I hope to compose this book in Bengali verse.” [13]

In the above passage, the poet Abdul Karim Khondkar gives a good picture of Muslim Society in his area, Bandar, probably port area of Roshang, the capital city Mrohaung. There an officer established a settlement, his name was Atibar, he was given the little of Sadi-uk Nana, he was a mint officer, and probably had some control over the merchants. Atibar’s father name was Umar, it is not known whether Umar held any state service. Atibar’s Pir was Hamidullah. In the place of Bandar, where Atibar established a settlement, many rich Muslim families built their houses; Atibar built there a mosque. Alims or Muslim learned men were settled there, some were appointed as Khatib and some as Imam. The residents were busy in offering prayers and helped the poor, if any happened to come over there. Such a bright picture of the Muslim Society in Arakan is really encouraging because it shows how the Muslims lived there as an affluent people.

The poet gives the names of his ancestors. His great grandfather was Rasul Mia; he was a custom officer in the king’s service. His grandfather was an interpreter in the customs office of the same king; his duty was to present foreigners before the king and to interpret one’s views to the others. In this way he used to come in contact with all traders who came to Roshang and he must have been very trusted officer of the king. The poet’s father Ali Akbar was probably a private person, if he was in the state service, the poet would have mentioned it proudly. The poet himself was a learned man, probably he was also a private person and he adorned the court of Atibar, the Sadi-uk. It was at the requested of Atibar that the poet wrote his book Dulla Majlis.

Dulla Majlis was a book dealing with religious subjects; it was a big volume consisting of 33 chapters. The book was compose in 1200 A.H./1785 A.D. In this same year the Burmese king Bodawpaya conquered Arakan and annexed it to the kingdom of Burma. So the poet wrote this book in the last year of the independent kingdom of Arakan. Before that the poet wrote two other books Tamim Ansari and Hazar Masail. The Hajar Masail was a dialogue between an imaginary Jewish King Abdullah and Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessing of Allah SWT be upon him), who discussed important religious matters.


He was also known as Shuja Qazi, he wrote in verse from a story of Roshang known as Roshanger Panchali (History of Roshang), which is current still in Mrauk U area. He was an inhabitant of Shadarpara of Arakan and the poet was alive during the first part of the 18th century.


He was an inhabitant of Qaim of Arakan and was the author of five books: Rahatul Qulub, Abdullar Hazar Sawal, Nurnama, MadhumalatiandDarige Majlis. The first three books deal with religious matters, Madhumalati was a love story, and the subject matter of the last book cannot be ascertained.


He lived at Bandar near Mrohaung, the capital of Arakan. He wrote a book entitled Adamer Larai (Battle of Adam). The subject matter cannot be determined.


He was a man of Qaim, and wrote a book entitled Bilqisnama. It is probably a love story, in which a woman named Bilqis was the heroine.


He was a man of Bandar, a place near Mrohaung of Roshang. He wrote three books entitled Amir Hamza, Dewalmatiand Haidar Jung.

We have given above the names of poets who flourished in Arakan and the titles of their books. We find that Bengali literature produced in Arakan was very rich. Qazi Daulat and Alaol were very famous for their works; they were greatest of all Muslim poets in the whole medieval period. The presence of so many Muslim poets in Arakan and the production of so many books in Bengali, show that there was a Bengali Muslim Society there who were ready to receive and read them. This is a supporting evidence to show that there were many Muslims living in Arakan who were literate and highly cultured. This is also a strong evidence to prove that Muslims had entered into Arakan from various parts from long past.


The influence and power of the Muslims grew in Arakan to the extent of forming their own administrative system. There were Muslim rulers, nobles, Qazis, scholars, generals and poets etc. who developed the country’s administration, shaped a healthy socio-cultural life of the people, encouraged the growth of Islamic culture and civilization and replaced Muslim heritage in Arakan.

In spite of remarkable contribution of their forefathers, today the Rohingyas have been invariably subjected to genocide and extermination at the hands of successive Burmese regimes, which aim at the total liquidation of Islam from the region so that the Muslims of Arakan would not be able to revive again. Their history has been distorted, historical documents destroyed or kept out of their hand reach. Historical evidence and relics have been marred and obliterated since the Burmese occupation of Arakan in 1974.

History cannot be falsified and replaced by concoctions, stories and fabrication. Realities cannot be tramped under-foot and a long civilization and culture cannot be simply washed away. All efforts to falsify history culture and civilization are destined to meet their natural, inevitable and inescapable doom.

Footnotes: –

1) Huq, Mohammed Enamul, Muslim Bengali Literature, Karachi (1957) P. 144

2) Sen, Sukumar, Islami Bangla Sahitya, Bradhaman (1958) P.15 

3) Dr. Kornamaya Goswami, Alaol and medieval Bengali music, The Daily Independent, Dhaka (12/03/1997) 

4) Arakan Rajsabhaya Bangla Sahitya op. cit., p. 14.

5) Supra note 1. p.146

6) Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah: Bangla Sahityer Katha, 2nd part, Dhaka 1371 B.S., p. 133.

7) D.C.Sen : Bangla Bhasha O Sahitya, 8th edition, p. 321.

8) Arakan Rajsabhaya Bangla Sahitya, p. 44.

9) Sahitya Patrika, winter, 1364, B.S., pp. 139-40.

10) Abdul Karim: “Roshang Bangla Sahitya”. Bangla Sahitya Samity, Chittagong University, 1994, pp. 22-23.

11) Arakan Rajsabhaya Bangla Sahitya, pp. 30-33.

12) Roshang Bangla Sahitya, pp. 41-45.

13) Descriptive Catalogue of Bengali Manucripts in Munshi Abdul Karim’s collection, tr. By S.S. Husain, pp. 217-18.

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